Gateway into Acid Jazz

To tie in with this week’s guest DJ mix by Adrian Riley, here’s a little introduction to one of the most influential jazz genre’s the UK has produced.

The ‘Acid Jazz’ movement of the 1980s & 90s was responsible for bringing a whole new audience to jazz through the vibrant club scene of the era and its influence can be seen in both jazz and popular music today, not just in listening habits but also in how young musicians approach jazz as a fluid style of music that sits alongside and interacts with contemporary trends.

The movement has its origins with British DJs spinning obscure danceable jazz recordings in the London dance clubs at the time, notably at a Sunday afternoon session at Dingwalls in Camden Dock, London. Legend has it the tongue in cheek title was an impromptu shout at one of these sessions – a play on the popular ‘Acid House’ dance music genre then gaining popularity – and was later adopted by the Acid Jazz record label.

This DJ scene inspired groove-based music groups to adopt the genre into a live setting with bands blending funk rhythms with jazz solos, soul vocals, latin beats and sometimes also collaborating with rappers. The genre broke into the mainstream with the success of the Brand New Heavies, who helped pave the way for a new generation of UK musicians and a reacceptance of jazz in youth culture not seen since the 1940s. Alongside this was the rediscovery and rerelease of tracks from the 1970s, many by jazz greats such as Pharoah Sanders and Grant Green that mixed intense improvisation with funky danceable beats, and as a result the influence of acid jazz was soon seen across UK nightclubs and in the pop music charts.

The current resurgence in British jazz owes much to the attitude of the 1980s & 90s that it’s all one glorious melting pot from which improvising musicians can blend the elements that speak to them and create new jazz music.